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Farewell first grade

My stint as a part-time first grader ended with the  school year on Wednesday. For some reason, the teacher and my fellow classmates were not nearly as sad about it as I was.

In fact, on the last day of school teacher Dan Rotterman couldn’t wipe the silly grin off his face. 

By the time I came to pick up my daughter, the students’ desks were empty and most of the students were gone.  The only evidence they ever existed were the proclamations “No more school!” and “Happy summer!” scrawled on the white board.

But what about me? I don’t get a summer break. I have to go back to being a full-time adult. 

Sigh.

For the last nine months, I’ve spent about the first hour and half of every weekday volunteering in Dan’s class. I spent most of my time correcting homework  and classwork, and guiding students through the pitfalls of writing and math. Sometimes, I simply hung out with the students, in the classroom, watching videos, eating lunch in the cafeteria or going on field trips.

Two of my favorite things were hearing students regularly shout out, “Hi Mr. Graves!” from the playground and getting high fives from them in the hallways.

And a highlight of some days were Dan’s famous, giant, chocolate/peanut butter cookies.  He would often leave them on my desk as a token of his appreciation – or a bribe to keep me coming back. I’m not sure.

On the last day of school I conducted an impromptu survey of the students. When I asked them what they liked best about first grade, the answered varied, but there was one common response: “RECESS!”

High on the list of student favorites were field trips, drawing and reading.

One boy, Sypher, said, “Being chased by girls!”

Lunch was a favorite with many students, except for Ella, who explained, “My mouth is full so I can’t talk much.”

Anisa’s favorite thing about first grade was “Green Eggs and Ham Day.” That’s when staff and children celebrated Dr. Suess’ famous book of the same name with an assembly and a cafeteria lunch featuring ... yep, you guessed it. Green eggs and ham.

Field trips to places such as the Brookings Fire Department and Fred Meyer were also popular with the first graders. The most popular trip by far was to Howland Hills Outdoor School, operated by the Redwood National and State Parks near Crescent City, where students learned about the native plants, weather and history.

The trip to Howland Hills was also a first for Dan. “After 36 years of teaching, it’s still nice to experience something new and exiting,” he said.

Not one for long good-byes, Dan and I parted ways in his classroom Wednesday, patting each other on the back for a job well done.

The next day, I saw him driving down Chetco Avenue in his convertible Miata. He had the top down, sunglasses on and that silly grin still on his face.

He waved “Hi” and then drove off into the sunset, taking with him a year’s worth of first grade memories – and any chance of getting more of those famous cookies. At least until the fall, when I continue my school career as a part-time second grader.

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